Before he became an actor, Charles Durning, the son of an Army man, continued in his father's footsteps with valor and distinction, earning a silver star and purple heart in World War II. Durning held down several "joe jobs" -- iron worker, elevator operator, cabbie, waiter, and dance instructor -- until turning to acting in the late 1950s. Fresh from the national tour of The Andersonville Trial, Durning began his long association with Joseph Papp in 1962, distinguishing himself in Shakespearean roles. He made his earliest film appearance in Ernest Pintoff's Harvey Middleman, Fireman (1965). Durning's film roles increased in size and importance after his interpretation of a crooked cop in the Oscar-winning The Sting (1973). He went on to appear in several Burt Reynolds films, most memorably as the singing governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). That performance landed him an Oscar nomination, as did his spin on "Concentration Camp" Erhardt in the 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be.
In 1975, Durning was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of ulcerated police lieutenant Moretti in the theatrical feature Dog Day Afternoon (1975); he finally won that award 15 years later for his work as "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald in the TV miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts. Other notable film roles to his credit include Peter Stockmann in the Steve McQueen-produced An Enemy of the People (1978), Dustin Hoffman's "suitor" in the cross-dressing classic Tootsie (1982) (he later co-starred with Hoffman in the 1984 stage revival of Death of a Salesman), and the foredoomed Waring Hudsucker in the Coen Brothers' Hudsucker Proxy (1994).